Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
June 1, 2010
Photos By: Peter S. Linney

Many of us fall in love and can't get enough of that special someone. You know-that person you want to see when you wake up and before you go to bed. For Joe Huerta of Gardena, California, his someone, or should we say something, special is his '82 Mustang GT that he bought new. It's been a love that he modified, changed, and upgraded since the day he drove it home from the dealer.

After about five years of driving his first car, a '69 Camaro, Joe set out in search of a new car. The old '69 was having transmission issues (again), and it was time for it to go. When the Third-Gen Camaro came out in '82, Joe looked into one but couldn't afford it. Later that same year, he was at an auto show and saw a new silver Mustang GT. "I really, really liked what I saw," Joe recalls. "And I could almost afford it."

Joe scrimped and saved for several months until he had enough money for a down payment. His parents lent him some more money, and on August 9, 1982, Joe drove home in a brand-new red '82 GT.

"I doubt anyone could have been as happy as I was the day I drove my GT out of the Pacific Ford dealership in Long Beach, California," Joe told us excitedly. "I had a full-on perma-grin."

Over the next few years while Joe was in college, he tinkered with his GT, adding lowering springs, wheels, exhaust, pulleys, and other minor upgrades. He also upgraded to an 8.8-inch rear with 3.55s and traded the four-speed for a T-5. By graduation in 1989, the GT had about 68,000 miles on the odometer, and Joe decided to rebuild the engine and clean up the engine compartment. He freshened the bottom end, had the stock heads ported, upgraded the cam, and detailed the underhood with polishing and miscellaneous chrome pieces.

By 1994, Joe had converted it from carburetion to fuel injection. "With the help of friends and a zillion trips to the salvage yard, I got the car running on eight injectors instead of four barrels," Joe tells us. He also switched to a roller cam and tossed the ported stock heads for a pair of Dart castings. It wasn't long after, though, that the itch struck again. "A buddy of mine installed a 351W stroker in his car. He talked it up so much that eventually I started planning for a Windsor of my own," he said.

In 1997, Joe scored one of the last Ford Racing Performance Parts Lightning short-block assemblies available and began collecting parts to do the swap. He turned to FRPP for a pair of GT-40 aluminum heads, a GT-40 intake, a set of 1.7 roller rockers, and shorty headers. Joe also tossed the T-5 for a Tremec TR-3550 and an FRPP aluminum driveshaft, and he upgraded the rear with an Eaton differential and FRPP 31-spline axles.

In the summer of 1998, Joe finished and installed the new drivetrain. "It came out nice. The car had tons of torque and I was pretty darn happy," Joe recalls. Over the next few years, he kept making little changes here and there. He upgraded the interior with '97 GT seats that he had recovered in red and black tweed at Huerta's Upholstery (no relation) in Long Beach, California.

In 2000, Joe enlisted his good buddy Danny Lopez to help repaint the car. Joe took some vacation time, and the two stripped and repainted the Fox at Joe's dad's shop-Long Beach Truck Painting, where Joe worked while he was in school. Lopez painted the exterior Hot Red and Sable, and Joe painted everything else. Joe took that opportunity to add the '93 Cobra spoiler and SVO sail panels.

After the newness of the 351W wore off, Joe began looking for something else to do. A friend had a supercharger on his car, so Joe began looking for one of his own. He found a nice used Vortech S-trim kit for sale, and with the help of his friend/mechanic Danny Swanson, Joe modified the kit to fit his Windsor. He upgraded to FRPP 36-lb/hr injectors, installed a custom exhaust system, and upgraded to an MSD 6AL ignition system.

With approximately 450 hp on hand, traction became an issue. Joe searched the Internet to find out which suspension and chassis parts would work best for his application. Up front, he chose Maximum Motorsports (MM) for a K-member, A-arms, caster/camber plates, and coilovers. He even had the K-member and A-arms powdercoated red to match.

Out back, Joe chose MM for a Panhard bar and torque arm (also powdercoated red), and upgraded to Steeda billet aluminum lower control arms. Joe did some of the installation, but Pat Porter at Porter's Alignment in Redondo Beach, California, handled the rest of the install and the alignment.

Joe swapped the front spindles for those from a '00 GT, and upgraded the brakes with Cobra calipers,13-inch Baer front rotors, and Baer 12-inch rear rotors and calipers. With the five-lug swap complete, Joe installed a set of 17-inch Cobra Rs wrapped in Nitto NT05 rubber. He even had the wheels powdercoated Sable to match the accent paint.

Clearly, we could go on and on telling you every little thing that Joe has done to his GT over the years, but all that really matters is how it has made him feel. "I've had a lot of fun with the heap over the years, and made a lot of good friends," Joe tells us. Now going on 28 years, we don't see Joe satisfying this itch any time soon, nor do we want him to. Keep it up Joe.